Memoir

All posts in the Memoir category

Ghosts

Published December 26, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

ghosts

Who am I to say? That might be my father, two tables over, staring out at me from behind that old man’s eyes, as I drink my iced coffee and try, unsuccessfully, to leaf through this mammoth brand new copy of Stephen King’s It.  I mean, we all have our ghosts…and as it is two weeks from Christmas, it would be in keeping with some kind of Dickensian sense of poetic justice, I suppose.

I just wish he wasn’t looking out at me…staring at me actually…with such directness…with so little warmth. There almost seems to be a sorrow there, a hurt. …and of course, ever analyzing, I could see how my father would think I had betrayed him, given the world a flawed impression. So, I sit here, guilt boiling, tears almost welling up in my eyes….and…

I think back to recent Facebook posts I’ve made to commemorate certain events – the anniversary of his death or his birthday. They’ve always been difficult for me to write, even though I’ve felt compelled to do them. I’ve never been able to compose simple, carefree posts about him. Our relationship was rocky at times and while I’ve tried balancing my ruminations with fairness, I’ve also tried to be honest. The wounds still run deep. But my dad was always someone who kept his council, his deepest thoughts and secrets were shadowed things…and I have made private things public, if even in a slightly masked way.

So, I begin to talk to my father in my head. I reassure him that I know he loves me. I tell him that I know he is looking out for me still. That I know, days ago, when I accidentally kicked the stuffed lion, that he gave me for a long ago birthday, out of my bed during the night, and it landed at the foot of my mattress in a protective pose, that he was watching out for me and that I felt comforted, protected. I tell him I love him and that I miss him, but that I also must tell the truth about the sad times, the frustrating times, the hurt.

…and this man continues to look me straight in the face, unmoved. …and still in his focused orbs, I see the exact replica of my father.  In reality, I know this stranger, who seems to be so wired to my presence, is probably not even aware of me. He is probably lost in some other place and time. He is probably not even there. Look…his female companion is crumbling his food up and feeding him, bite by bite. He accepts the nourishment, blankly, with no true sense of need or desire. But, I also (unreasonably, perhaps) believe this could make him the perfect vessel for my father. Would there be anything wrong with possessing someone who is totally unaware? Would there be any danger to someone’s soul then? I know I am actually not the one to seriously analyze these implications. I categorize myself as agnostic because I know that there is no way for me to truly guess at all the world’s mysteries. Who I am to say for sure that there is no god? Who I am to refuse to believe that a spirit could imbue the husk of some old soul… even momentarily?

I contemplate these things as I put on and zip up my hoodies and then throw on my coat. I ponder these mysteries even as I head to the garbage bins to throw away my plastic cup. And still he looks through me, unconvinced. And in turn, I keep looking back for some acknowledgment, some relief, as I walk away. I seek some understanding from him and there is none. And this could be because this really is just some poor lost man on his last wavelength of life. Or…this could be because it is two weeks before Christmas and, in some sense of Dickensian poetic justice, this really is the essence of my father pouring forth from this stranger’s intent gazes. He could be here to remind me to be very careful of what I reveal, to remind me that there are a million sides to every story and that he will never be appeased by any of my attempts at heart filled reasoning.

And who am I to say that this isn’t so? I know really nothing about god…about life…except that it is the holiday season and I could very well be seeing ghosts.
dad

Review: I Said Yes to Everything

Published December 15, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

lee grant bookDamien: Omen II. Visiting Hours. The Swarm. Airport 77. The Spell. The Cage. Academy award winning actress and acclaimed documentarian Lee Grant has appeared in more genre outings than even her most disciplined fans can often recall. Those interested in detailed accountings of such offerings, though, may be a bit disappointed by Grant’s emotionally complex, extremely well written 2014 memoir I Said Yes to Everything.

She gives only passing reference to many of these projects here – ignoring others outright – and sums up her experience working on them by saying that she eventually discovered that good acting work could be done in properties that often didn’t meet her qualifications of artistic merit.

Still, some glittering factoids do emerge. She, happily, recounts the tale of Michael Caine falling asleep, on camera, while filming The Swarm. Self deprecatingly, she also recalls consenting to do her own water stunts on the set of Airport 77 after witnessing the distinguished Olivia de Havilland, gleefully, taking a bath to make one of that film’s many scenes of destruction seem more realistic. Slasher Visiting Hours is also given a bit of notice as being the project that made the ever age conscious performer determine that her days as a leading lady were over and that it was time to devote her talents to behind the camera opportunities.lee grant damien

Nicely, Grant does major justice to the years she spent trying to regain her life after her complicated first marriage left her blacklisted by the House of Un-American Activities. The trauma of that relationship and her triumphant return to a career are definitely book highlights. Her honesty about her struggles to connect with an adopted daughter is also a revealing and intimate look at how hard parenthood and life, in general, can be.

Of course, all is not hardship and Grant’s tales of her loving, eccentric family and coming of age adventures lighten the atmosphere, giving readers a well rounded portrait of a woman who has successfully forged her own path despite all that life has thrown at her.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Book Review: Sharon Farrell, Siân Phillips

Published December 4, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

sharon-book

Written in completely different styles and featuring authors who arrive at their writing points from much different backgrounds, the memoirs of Siân Phillips (The Doctor and the Devils, Hammer House of Horror) and Sharon Farrell (It’s Alive, Night of the Comet) still manage to broker in the much of the same emotional currency and definitely illustrate how it is still the men in society who continue to steadily manipulate the fates of those around them.

sian-public-placesA prodigiously talented theater actress, Wales bred Phillips details her courtship and years of marriage to Peter O’Toole in Public Places, which was first published in the United States in 2003. While Phillips engaged, successfully, in a performing arts career, O’Toole, obviously, was the more famous of the two, reaching a worldwide platform with Lawrence of Arabia. He also definitely, as evenly and poetically described by Phillips, controlled the many specifics of their lives together. Fairly, Phillips often revels in the adventures she experienced while visiting O’Toole on his various film sets and, lovingly, describes a remote home on a mountain that she, painstakingly, created for him and their two daughters.

Phillips also shares stories of such legends as Katharine Hepburn, who frightened her children by vehemently suggesting that they should become something useful like plumbers, and My Fair Lady’s pompous Rex Harrison. Harrison, known for his misogynistic temper, is painted truthfully here and Phillips shows grace and courage when explaining how she mastered his moods while performing on stage with him. sian-hammer

In deep contrast to Phillips’ artfully measured tones, Farrell’s “Hollywood Princess” From Sioux City, Iowa is a messy and rambunctious offering, often filled with grammatical errors and with the names of famous participants misspelled. Yet, with pluck and little sense of bitterness, the actress traces her career which was often sidetracked by affairs, a miscarriage, rape, medical issues and mismanagement.

As with Phillips’ offering, Farrell’s honestly reveals how the males in power, here in LA (and beyond), frequently, shaped her destiny – from the unstableness of Hawaii Five-O’s Jack Lord to the peculiarities of Bill Bell, the creator of the popular soap The Young and the Restless. Farrell frequently found herself jobless due to their whims and when, onset, was subjected to unprofessionally bizarre behavior – prime examples being Dennis Hooper peeing on her while filming Out of Blue and a physical attack from a fellow performer on the location of The Reivers.

Still, Farrell, who suffers from bi-polar disorder, is often hardest on herself here and she acknowledges her own responsibility in many of the choices that she made. She is full of passion and heart and, despite the lack of editing, often sets up a nice sense of atmosphere and sense of time and place even when her viewpoint rambles some.

its-alive-sharon-farrellUnfortunately, neither actress concentrates much on their genre offerings here. Phillips does, happily, describe her interesting audition for David Lynch’s Dune and Farrell gives passing mention to such projects as The Premonition and The Fifth Floor. But, what is most poignant and interesting about each book, is the conclusion that readers can draw about society, itself. It is still a straight man’s world, as plainly evidenced in both writers’ circumstances. Here, they show how they overcame and thrived despite that sometimes overpowering obstacle.

Public Places is available, on sale, from various dealers on Amazon. Farrell’s tome, meanwhile, can be purchased from her at www.sharonfarrell.com.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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 (Images of are Phillips in Hammer House of Horror and Farrell in It’s Alive.)

 

Viewing with Father Lou

Published August 20, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

Priest

“Be faithful to me tonight,” he cooed, prettily, wrapping himself around my leg as I tried to retain my concentration on Traci Lords and her notoriously notable, legitimate acting debut in the remake of Not of This Earth.

It was the spring of 1988. I was home, on a quick break from college, and the “he” in question was my first horror movie buddy. He had a tendency to annoy me with such requests, over the years, as we watched such outrageous fare as Bloodsucking Freaks, Creepers and Friday the 13th, Part 4 together. I knew him as Father Lou and I think, despite our family’s closeness to him, that is what I always referred to him by. I can’t ever remember just calling him “Lou”. Due to my dad’s insistence, he gained a position as “favorite family uncle” during the latter part of my freshman year of high school. My father, a determined social achiever who was running a huge school district by the end of his career, was hot to make his way into the upper reaches of our local parish and a friendship with the new priest was a sure way to do it.

Father Lou endeared himself to us all, though, with his outrageous wit and sense of fun and cookie jars full of peanut M and M’s and red licorice. Most importantly, he embraced my love of all things terror related, something my parents thought made me a bit mentally unbalanced, and we were soon trading paperback novels with each other and, excitedly, rhapsodizing over our favorite films. While he made inappropriate comments, here or there, in my early teen years, it was once I hit 17 and he began to suspect that my friendships with other men in summer stock companies and various theater programs might be sexual in nature, that his efforts to seduce me tripled.

Once or twice, I would give in.

Questionable teen hormones and pure frustration allowed me to grant him a quick rendezvous or two in which his smooth rotund stomach and firm yet stubby penis were the primary participants. Both times, he would weakly ejaculate before I even had to touch him and he would quickly pull up his impossibly large tighty whities and run upstairs to clean up before my parents arrived to indulge in church gossip with him or just to simply visit.

Honestly, I’ve never quite known where to place him on my personal sexual registry. Inappropriateness aside, I was already 18 and in my final year of high school by the time, worn down from repeated advances, I allowed him a first, furtive dalliance. In many ways, I suppose my experiences with him are akin to the relations that I had with various men that I slept with, out of last call desperation, in my younger days in the city.  He’s just another example of bad, instantly regrettable sex – a bizarre and off color story of my youth. He haunts me only in these dusty nostalgic ramblings or in those midnight hours as I bike the city streets, worn out from a work shift at the rib joint, and recollections, distant at first and then furtively prying, such as this overtake me. Otherwise, therapy and distance have reduced his foothold in my life, long ago.CREEPERS

More than anything, as a fully fledged cine-maniac, what I am most thankful for, I realize as I devise this, is that these woeful encounters did not color my love for the films we viewed. Many of  them were indicative of the more sordid excesses of the genre – making the fact that my first viewing of them was with him all the more interesting, I suppose – and I still revel in that juicy freedom. Talk to an ardent fan of any type of media and oftentimes who they were with and the positivity that surrounded said creation are highly indicative of their devotion to it. Here, I am glad that sometimes celluloid itself is enough. That art, in whatever form it may arrive in, does indeed prevail.

I still adore Creepers (and Phenomena, its more legitimate rendering). It was my introduction to Italian horror cinema just as Bloodsucking Freaks was my first, very uncomfortable witnessing of an extreme form of grindhouse cinema. Both were bold and unconventional, aspects that I have wished for in my own life. These characteristics have, naturally, informed me more than anything else and I am fortified in the knowledge that they peek through at the most appropriate moments. Most especially, I hope, when recounting moments like this.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Book Review: The Quality of Mercy

Published June 3, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan

mercedesbook

Who knew the voice of Satan could be so sweet? Indeed, Academy Award winning actress Mercedes McCambridge, best known to terror stalwarts for providing the ghoulish vocal pyrotechnics of the demon in The Exorcist, writes with enormous beauty and supreme self awareness in her 1981 memoir The Quality of Mercy: An Autobiography.

Nicely, McCambridge, a versatile veteran of live radio, spends an entire chapter describing how she came up with the various signature sound pieces that made William Friedkin’s seminal shocker so potently creepy. (If you thought Regan’s onscreen vomiting was hard to take, the image of McCambridge spitting up raw eggs into a cup for the sound effect is liable to make your stomach a mite queasy, as well.) McCambridge also relates her heartache upon realizing she hadn’t, initially, received screen credit for her work and describes the efforts taken to make sure she received it. (Note: In Friedkin’s 2013 memoir he relates a different story, that McCambridge, at first, had insisted on no screen credit to help supply a sense of atmosphere to the film.)

As an unexpected bonus, the husky voiced actress also relates her joy upon working with Boris Karloff in a vampire piece for the radio. She, gleefully, recounts how, behind the scenes, life savers were chomped on to create the illusion that her character’s neck was being snapped.mercedes 99

Perhaps, not unsurprisingly, McCambridge’s tome, occasionally, deals with the often devastating effects of religion on women. Taught to fear an all powerful being, she strains to find her own voice and live a liberated and creative life. She is haunted by her two divorces and recounts, in frightening detail, how she assisted a childhood friend in procuring an illegal abortion.

She also, honestly, recounts her struggles with alcoholism and, with the sweeping curtness of a master storyteller, recalls her activism and her personal relationships, that she hints might have contained flickers of romance, with such powerful figures as politician Adlai Stevenson and master showman Billy Rose.

Euro-buffs, meanwhile, will get a kick out of her non-mention of exploitation maestro Jess Franco. Franco’s 99 Women, the WIP flick that features a boisterously accented performance from McCambridge, is brushed off as an unnamed, nonessential entry in her filmography here.

Thankfully, McCambridge, whose career seemingly suffered due to her visible efforts to link a popular face to the rigors of addiction, comes off as completely singular and absolutely worthy of the cinema fan’s eternal (and loving) recall.

Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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The Unexpected Father – A Memoir Piece.

Published June 24, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

dad
Me and my real dad.

This is probably my favorite photo of us. We’re in costume for (my first summer stock show) American Primitive.

There is an interesting, vaguely unsettling (to my childhood mind) stage dad story with this, as well. This was 1976 and for the 1.5/2 weeks of rehearsal, a young, very handsome blonde actor had been playing my father in the show. Suddenly, a day or so before we opened, the director (a darker, heavyset guy) took over the part. If I’m not mistaken, that was the plan all along – but I was never told.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever said a word to the first guy off-stage, being enamored and much too shy, but I had definitely bonded with him, theatrically, and didn’t like the change. I was bewildered yet exceedingly polite about the situation – but not happy.

As the show came to a close, the imposter stage dad became increasingly emotional before every performance – stating each night, loudly and dramatically, to me (& to all that were near) that “In two days…one day…tonight…I’m losing a son!!!”

I thought it was the strangest thing ever. I knew we were just acting!

Anyhow, all these years later, I do hope that my second fake dad eventually had plenty of kids who truly loved him – or, as the case may be (bachelor actor!!!), had plenty of fictional theatre children who adored him in all the ways that I certainly couldn’t!

But…

Next time, let a kid know, yo!!!!

Big Gay Horror Fan
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